Local officials in Tennessee, Illinois, New York, and Virginia are offering up hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and Washington Commanders, respectively, to entice them to construct new football stadiums. Supporters of these and similar plans say the stadiums will bring in construction jobs and game day employment, as well as nearby economic development and community revitalization.

Yet in an analysis published earlier this year, researchers from Kennesaw State University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and West Virginia University found that over a 30-year period, the local economic development from sports teams and venues didn’t offset the public investment provided to build them. That’s because most spending at stadiums is done by local residents, using the money they would have spent at other nearby businesses, the researchers said.

“The observed spending on tickets, concessions, etc., is not stimulated new spending, it’s reallocated existing spending,” said J.C. Bradbury, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University and the study’s first author. “This applies to all stadiums and arenas of any sport.”

The deals keep coming, economists say, due in part to the fact that the hidden costs and long-term financial commitments generally outlast the tenures of local officials that agree to these deals. And, simply put, because people love the home team.

“Sports occupy a much bigger space in our lives than their financial footprints would dictate,” said Michael Leeds, a sports economist and professor at Temple University. “That makes things difficult for a politician — you don’t want to be the mayor who lost Team X.”

In March, New York state and Erie County officials agreed to cover $850 million to help the Buffalo Bills build a new, $1.4 billion stadium in western New York. Fans have said keeping the Bills in town is worth the price tag, but activists in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, want more transparency around the negotiation process for the deal’s community benefits agreement, which will outline how the Bills will give back to the region. The details of the agreement are still being negotiated.

Read the full article about taxpayer-funded football stadiums by Gaby Galvin at Smart Cities Dive.